By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Senate is looking to file a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to question the Philippines’ termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States without its concurrence.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III bared this in an interview over DZMM radio Thursday as he noted studies supposedly indicating that the abrogation of any treaties and international agreements also have to be approved by the Upper Chamber.
The Constitution stipulates that agreements entered into by the Philippines with other countries should be ratified by the Senate before they are enforced.
And while the charter was silent about the termination of treaties, Sotto said Senate rules provide for the need for their concurrence on the matter.
“Apparently, ang dating sa amin ngayon nito na (it appears to us that), after the studies na (that) I will probably review later, ay magfi-file kami ng panibagong petition na concerning VFA (is that we will file another petition concerning the VFA),” Sotto said.
“Malamang by next week ay mag-file kami ng petition doon sa Supreme Court (Maybe by next week, we will file a petition before the SC),” he said.
Sotto disclosed that the leadership was initially planning to file an addendum to the petition filed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and other opposition senators in 2018 against the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). But he was informed that the SC is “ready for a decision” on the case.
The SC’s ruling on the Senate’s petition, he said, will settle once and for all the debates on whether or not their concurrence is needed to terminate treaties, although he said the High Court’s decision on the ICC case “might have an effect” on the Senate’s position.
“Pero sa amin, sa pag-aaral namin sa rules namin, lumalabas na merong concurrence namin (But for us, in our review of the Senate rules, it appears that it should have our concurrence),” Sotto maintained.
The Philippines on Tuesday officially notified the U.S. about its intention to withdraw from the VFA. This was upon the order of President Duterte, who was irked about the cancellation of his close ally Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s U.S. visa and the “disrespect” shown by the U.S. toward the country’s handling of its internal affairs.
Sotto said he is still hoping Duterte will reconsider his decision while they are reviewing the VFA and the effects of its abrogation.
Earlier, he said he is inclined to support moves to assert the Senate’s authority over the termination of treaties and international agreements, specifically the resolution filed by Drilon following the President’s threat to scrap the VFA.